SLAYTON — A coalition of 18 county agriculture organizations worked together to host Murray County's first annual Ag Awareness Breakfast Sunday, in an effort to spread information about the process and impact of agriculture.
Attendees purchased a full breakfast of two scrambled eggs, two pancakes, two sausage links and coffee, water or milk, all for 35 cents. The price illustrated that for every dollar the average American spends on food, the farmer makes on average only 35 cents.
Posters lined the walls of the 4-H Building on the Murray County Fairgrounds that showed the difference between retail prices on common pantry staples versus what a farmer takes home from that total.
Hosting organizations wanted the public to be aware that food usually doesn't go straight from farm to table. It makes several stops along the way, each with an additional expense.
For example, grain's path to the American kitchen usually goes like this: First, the farmer grows the grain in a field. They harvest the grain and take it to an elevator, where it is purchased by grain byproduct producers. They sell the byproduct to a grain distributor, who in turn sells it to a wholesaler. From the wholesaler, retail stores buy the products. Finally, the consumer buys the product from the retailer, and it then ends up on the plate.
By the time a loaf of bread makes it all the way through that process, it costs an an average of $3.99 for the consumer. The farmer only takes home about 11 cents of that price.
"I don't think people realize we don't get much in return," said farmer and Murray County Fair Board member Stan Larson, who helped organize the event.
Despite this stark discrepancy, it was noted, Americans on average spend only 10% of their income on food — the lowest of any country in the world. Eighty percent of our food and fiber are produced by only 210,000 American farmers.
Agriculture employs more than 24 million Americans today, but more are needed, organizers pointed out. The world's population is projected to increase to 9 billion people by 2050, and in order to accommodate that growth, food production must double.
Agriculture has already made significant improvements over the last several decades. In 1960, the average American farmer could feed 26 people. Today, they can feed 155.
"Farmers really put their heart and soul into providing food for the world," said Murray County 4-H Ambassador Michelle Zenk.
Larson pointed out that farmers face a number of obstacles right now, including the weather and foreign trade tensions. These obstacles are a source of stress that farmers sometimes don't know how to manage. He highlighted the early June death by suicide of a Murray County farmer who was overwhelmed by the pressure of the current agricultural conditions.
The community showed up in droves to eat and show their support for agriculture. More than 600 people had come through the food line with an hour left of the event.
"We can all help educate," said Margie Salentiny of the Murray County Corn and Soybean Growers Association, adding that a key to supporting agricultural communities is understanding their vital role in feeding American families.